Written: September 2nd-6th, 2013
Alternate Title: Kirby's Airride [|O|]
Year: 2003 | Developed by: HAL Laboratory | Published by: Nintendo
So let's do a recount of my last few blogposts for a second shall we? I gave my overall initial impression of Seiken Densetsu 3 with glowering praise, then I reviewed Pocky & Rocky 2 while sounding mostly positive except for a big chunk that I wasn't, afterwards I sounded the most negative to date with the review for Mickey's Dangerous Chase, finally making up for that with my optimistically positive initial impressions on Wander Over Yonder's debut episode "The Picnic". Hmmm... I need to stop these lopsided patterns of mine, especially since there were moments when I sounded angry when I was negative in two of them. I'm sure I'll work something out, but anyway let's get started.
As many of you may be aware, I am huge Kirby fan! =D Even though the first Kirby game I played was during the '90s (Kirby's Dream Land 2 to be specific; yes, I'm aware that I still need to review that game), it wasn't until late 2002 after I played Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land for the Game Boy Advance (a remake of the NES Kirby's Adventure) that I truly became enamored of the round, charming pink puffball and his adventures. And since then I've been enjoying his games immensely, having played almost all of them (the exceptions being Kirby's Star Stacker, the Satellaview series of mini-games Kirby's Toy Box, and his 20th anniversary compilation Kirby's Dream Collection). And based on what lot I've played in the series, I can proudly say that many of his games as far as I'm concerned were solid... while some of them were relatively weak.
Case in point: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards on the Nintendo 64. Remember my review of that game back in May? No not that part, I'm still trying to live like it didn't happen (if you've read my review you'll know what I'm alluding to)! -_- No, it was the review where I went all out while discussing its high points and low points, thereby making it possibly the longest review ever made for that game (unless someone says otherwise). Barring his appearance in the first Super Smash Bros. a year prior, this 2000 Nintendo 64 iteration was Kirby's first foray to the 3D world overall, albeit as a 2.5D sidescrolling platformer, which garnered some of the most middling of all reception in the series since it came out.
While it's not a terrible game (it is decent at best), it is one that I consider part accomplishment and part disappointment (the latter especially hurts when you compare it to his other adventures). While it won't win any awards for its story and scope, it did have some good qualities going for it. While they look very aged by today's standards, the visuals are still good for the most part (albeit quite blocky) with well-chosen textures, lighting, and colors, not to mention presenting inbetween-planet cutscenes that play at a surprisingly fast and fluid pace. The gameplay was very good, even though due to the controller's layout it would take a bit of time to adjust, and it offered some new gimmicks; like combining two power-ups to create one powerful power-up, trying to evade columns in the background that will attempt to squish you as they fall towards the foreground, riding alongside Waddle Dee and piggybacking on top of King Dedede, and pretty much all the bosses having two phases. The first of which would eventually resurface in Kirby Squeak Squad, except not as commonly implemented and requires two bubbles to be merged inside Kirby's stomach.
The problems lie within the execution. While it's structured like a traditional Kirby game, it tries to diverge itself so much from the formula that it ends up becoming very untraditional in the process. Kirby does things that he rarely does in his other games: like grabbing his power-up star from his mouth should he wish of disposing it, carrying and/or throwing said power-up star in (or from) his hands as he moves around, moving as he inhales, inhaling underwater, and most glaring of all, not being able to float indefinitely. While the spiraling and twisting camera angles were nice, they stray so much from the orthographic camera style that's been used in all Kirby's other sidescrolling platformers, not to mention the fact that they're eerily reminiscent of Pandemonium!'s camera style, that it can get distracting at times (particularly for those that played the aforementioned PlayStation One sidescroller). Another low blow was the fact that once you grab a crystal shard you don't have to finish the stage to keep it in your possession; you can just leave the area and you won't even have to collect it again, thereby dangerously reducing Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards' replay value by a huge margin. I mean talk about enabling!
Aside from the Mario Party-style mini-games and the fact that there are two endings (not to mention an optional attempt to gather all the Enemy Info cards should you desire), there was simply little to no replay value to be found here. And in a nutshell, that's what drove some gamers off from this game in the first place; and yeah, having played the game I do see where they're coming from. Just like its detractors it's also got its defenders, and that's fine. While there are issues to be certain, it does make up for it with a really good soundtrack, great amount of charm, fun gameplay, its ambitious ideas, and the secret final boss fight. Considering it was the first Kirby game made in 3D, it could've been a lot better in retrospect. But then, it could've been a lot worse. It's ironic that I caught up with this game in 2011, the same year that HAL Laboratory would create what in my humble opinion has got to be Kirby's Magnum Opus: Kirby's Return to Dream Land for the Nintendo Wii (also a 2.5D platformer), since in the same year I got to play both one of Kirby's weakest entries as well as his overall best. =)
My only regret with that review was the time I made those remarks towards things that were irrelevant to the game I was talking about. Not because of the remarks themselves (though I will admit they were harsh), but because I made the boneheaded decision about bringing them up in the middle of the review; it's unfortunate because it made it distracting (and all because I was too stubborn to make separate blogs about them). If I could, I would try to remake the whole review without those bits of irrelevancy, but that would mean having to reword it all and possibly get some replacement screen grabs. =( Huh, I did not think this through... I'll have to think about it thoroughly, but in the meantime; from the creative team behind the Super Smash Bros. trilogy and Kid Icarus: Uprising, I give you my review of Kirby Air Ride!
|Select your game mode|
It's funny that I bring up the Nintendo 64 at all, because Kirby Air Ride was initially going to be developed for that console as a Generation One title, four years before Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Being inspired by that one bit in the intro sequence from Kirby Super Star (where Kirby rides on his Warp Star), HAL Laboratory decided to make a racing game starring Kirby. At first it was going to be called Kirby's Air Ride, undergoing through various changes during the game of the hour's development hell, it was at one point going to be different in structure (much more different than what the final product turned up); one of the fascinating things that were apparent in the earlier version's screenshots were the fact that Kirby was wearing a blue baseball cap, the enemies would be racing too, and the fact that there were both a health meter and number of lives in the same shot (as far as I looked up). Sadly while in development it got cancelled, and it's a shame since a part of me is curious to have seen how the game would've worked and run in 64-bit format.
|Sooooo many pretty lights!!!|
After having failed to release it on the Nintendo 64 several years earlier, HAL Laboratory attempted to resurrect Kirby's racing game to the newer GameCube console. They showed it as a brief preview which wasn't favorably received due to its less than stellar visuals and its deliberate speed over at the 2003 annual DICE summit over at Las Vegas, however the title would be changed from Kirby's Air Ride to simply Kirby Air Ride. Since the preview backfired badly, HAL decided to show it again at E3 in the same year showcasing all three game modes and five playable tracks. And, wouldn't you know it: it fared a lot better. Kirby Air Ride would also be the last game in the series that Kirby's creator, Masahiro Sakurai, directed; but he would act as a special advisor to Flagship for when they made Kirby & the Amazing Mirror the following year. So, when this racer finally came out seven long years after its inception to be played by all, the critics unanimously were like:
(I know, that's a badly drawn thumb down on the left; and no that's not Kirby)
But (casual) gamers and fans of the always hungry pink puffball were more like:
|♫Come on, baby, light my fire♪|
|In space, the blue hexagons shine brightly|
|Flying through a pair of big rings|
|Each color shares a different facial|
|Kirby has got the wings of power|
|♫I believe I can fly♪|
|I know I've used this joke before; but it's|
|How far can you fly through the air?|
|YOU'RE WINNER !|
|Meta Knight will slice and dice through these|
|His Royal Gluttony himself makes an|
appearance as a playable character
We'll be right back with the game after this rant of mine on the Americanized anime dub:
Look, I get it, not every culture is equally accepting of certain content or subjects, so some changes have to be made. But they need to be changes that make sense! Some episodes will be aired out of order, that's fine, so long as you don't affect the series' continuity (which is what happens in a lot of Disney shows). The Japanese version produced episodes from 2001 to 2003, while the 4Kids dub lasted from 2002 to 2006. A couple of the last episodes from the former version were released during the middle portion of the Americanized version, just so America can see an advertisement for this racer. Okay, whatever! But... save for one change (making King Dedede sound Southern admittedly was amusing), one change, everything else 4Kids has done to the show is unacceptable! For starters, taking emotional episodes (like the one with the robotic dog) and/or backstories from the Japanese version and transitioning them to America as glanced over or turning them into jokes is downright deplorable. A lot of the jokes that worked in the Japanese version were turned to unfunny lines in the Americanized dub. The serious-sounding Meta Knight has grown a Spanish accent, why would you do that?
I'm not saying keeping the scenes with the guns in the show is a good idea necessarily (which 4Kids didn't), but they were some of the funniest scenes in the anime (particularly the one with Kirby at the police station). But the one thing that I fail to understand, the main problem with the 4Kids adaptation itself, is *facepalm*. *breathes* Okay, in the Japanese original there were signs, banners, and books that had words written in plain English on them. So what does 4Kids do in their inferior version? ... They deprive all these things of the English wording. I kid you not! Words fail me as to why 4Kids would do that, it's enough to make me question their own personal beliefs on how intelligent they think kids are, or viewers are for that matter. It's like they don't believe that people know how to read, or appreciate serious content that was present in the Japanese version so they have to make it as silly as possible. Granted, the Japanese version was a little silly too, but it knew when to take a break from that; it knew how to entertain TV viewers; it knew how to make people laugh or cry; and it knew how to make people connect with the characters.
4Kids just do not understand Kirby and all things related like us fans do, like HAL Laboratory and Nintendo do, and the people involved in the making of the anime; and that's why the Americanized version was panned and the Japanese original was praised. There's a reason why 4Kids is one of many subjects of ridicule, and this (especially what they've done to Sonic X and their own adaptation of One Piece) is one of them. Kids are a lot smarter than this! They are! *pants* They are. That's just my two cents on this deal, though.
Yeah, I've learned my lesson from last time; so I figured it was best to not bring up a rant about something other than the game out of the blue, so I decided to leave a brief message warning of my getting off topic and have the background colored differently so as to let readers know that I'm talking about something else in length and not do it in the middle of the talk about the game itself. I doubt I'm going to do this all the time (or often), though, but I just wanted to try this once. Also, I wanted to sound as calm about it all as best I could. ... And now we're back!
|Flying high in the sky|
Employee A: "Oh, no!"
Employee B: "What is it?"
Employee A: "I just realized that we forgot to give the characters voices for when they take damage or fall offscreen!"
Employee B: "No sound, really? That's too bad. Well, I'll try to figure something out."
Employee A: "The game's due in a couple days, we've no time for that!"
Employee B: "Hee hee, I'm sure no one's going to notice!" *positive spirit, and waving hand down*
Employee A: *glares at other employee with angry silence*
But otherwise, the sound is not bad overall. =)
|Stadium hints, I love them|
Right then, about the challenge value then. As I said before, the controls are very simple on all three game modes; which makes Kirby Air Ride all the more accessible to gamers of all skills. One of the reasons this racing game has gotten lots of backlash from critics was due to how simple it was; but even if that was not the case, they commented on how short the game was and that there could've been more to it. To be fair though, the amount of races and events aren't bad (nine Air Ride courses, seven Top Ride courses, and several increments of events in City Trial), in fact I find them sufficient enough; on the other hand, it probably would've been nice had there been a few more courses to race in. But even though the races can feel a bit short and City Trial is the most preferred game mode in the package, there are factors I feel augment a lot of replay value.
|Good luck unlocking all these checkboxes!|
See, in each of the three game modes there are one-hundred and twenty boxes to check, all adding up to a total of three-hundred and sixty. There are lots of achievements to attempt; such as beating a race (or a single lap) in a certain amount of time, swallow consecutive (blank) enemies in a row, finish a race with a specific ability, obtaining ten of a certain power patch, and trying to see how much mileage you can gain should you race with the timer instead. Once any of those are done a box will be checked out; if it's green then it's just a regular box, but if you check a red box you'll be rewarded something--whether it be a song to listen to, a new star vehicle, another colored Kirby to choose from, the ability to play as Meta Knight and King Dedede, et al. If you don't think you can achieve a certain accomplishment (should you have one), you can always place a purple box wherever you wish, for it acts as a freebie; once you use it though, you won't be using it again, so choose wisely. Fortunately you can tell when you've done an achievement after you hear a tone. =) There are even various options for these game modes; such as adding minutes, doing time attacks, practicing with free runs, running the game at normal or slow speed, changing how many opponents you want to compete with you, what their CPU levels are, and more. So really, even though these game modes are short, there's always that one thing that will make you come back for more.
|Kirby is better than Link anyway! ^_^ Do not|
And basically that's what it all amounts to in the end. Its simplicity is a big factor, and one that has both split critics and charmed fans and gamers since 2003. Whether it makes the game work for you or not depends on whether you're okay and accepting about that. Whatever the case, one thing is for certain: it makes for a great visual tech demo. Don't get me wrong, it's very competent as a game, but when you get down to it it's really a visual tech demo. But even if you don't consider it as that, if you're willing to overlook its brevity and and accept it for what it is, it's a really good game. And considering all the achievements to be accomplished and the settings you can adjust for each game mode, I feel it adds a lot of replay value. Ever since I got this game back in Christmas of 2003 I've enjoyed it, and while it's not perfect by any means, I think it's a very fun game (it's even more fun with friends and family). Make of it what you will; your mileage may vary. It would be another seven years until Kirby's newest TV console game would come out (Kirby's Epic Yarn), and it wouldn't be until 2011 when his overall greatest title would arrive (Kirby's Return to Dream Land); take my word for it. =) Either way, it's a big improvement over Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.
(>'.' )>TO EACH THEIR OWN<( '.'<)
P.S.: I'm still bummed out that there was no news of an upcoming Kirby game during this year's E3. =( I'd like to play a new sidescrolling platformer in the series; hell, I wouldn't even mind if it was a sequel to Kirby Air Ride for the Nintendo 3DS. It'd be cool that if it exists it would do to this game what Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon did to the original GameCube classic and improved it in every way. I hate to sound like a broken record: but I'd like to see a new Kirby game, since I just can't get enough of the series. =(
P.S. 2: I just couldn't resist making that Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing reference! It was just too good an opportunity to not take advantage of. XD
P.S. 3: The series Wander Over Yonder is finally getting new episodes next Friday, I cannot wait (I like it so far)! It may be kooky and nonsensical, but it's a kooky and nonsensical show with a heart. Plus it wallows in its own nonsensicality, which makes it fun for me, and it takes me back to my childhood; also, it stars aliens, so they can do whatever they please. Fish Hooks, on the other hand, is a badly drawn nonsensical show about aquarium fish with anthropomorphic qualities, but all it does is make viewers cringe in fear due to its flat-out horridness. There, I've taken another jab at Fish Hooks, one of the worst animated shows of all time (in my opinion), and I eagerly look forward to the next opportunity to do so.
P.S. 4: Sorry about the lack of Blue Kirby in my screenshots, I just didn't have enough and couldn't find a good one.
P.S. 5: Even though this game came out while the anime was still in session, I regret to inform you that Escargoon does not make a cameo in this game... HAL Laboratory would rectify that in the mini-RPG Kirby Quest in Kirby Mass Attack. =)
P.S. 6: By the way, did you know that 2001: A Space Odyssey had a sequel? It's called 2010: The Year We Make Contact.
P.S. 7: Just so anyone knows, no I'm not counting Kirby's Avalanche (or Kirby's Ghost Trap depending where you live) as a Kirby spin-off or Kirby anything; if only for the fact that it's not a real Kirby game. It's just the Western version of Super Puyo Puyo with a Kirby-esque face lift; it shouldn't count anyway as far as I'm concerned.
P.S. 8: I've recently listened to the whole soundtrack for The Conjuring, and holy crap did I jump whenever the jump scare sound cues came up, and the final track is powerfully emotional. I need to watch the movie again, it was one of the best movies I've seen that 2013's summer had to offer! =D
P.S. 9: As for how far Kirby could fly:
this was the farthest distance I could manage.
Stay tuned next time for another HAL Laboratory video game review, only it does not star Kirby or Lolo. What could it be? Until next time, see ya!
Thank you for reading my review! Please leave a comment and I hope you have a great day! Take care! =)